Friday, October 2, 2009

Utah for Levelers, Part 3, Capitol Reef

While we're on Utah, let's not forget Capitol Reef National Park, north of Bryce on Scenic Highway 12.

The visitor center is near where Mormons first settled, a pastoral spot on the Freemont River where they developed a 2,700-tree orchard of apples, peaches, osage orange, almond and walnut. They had a grape arbor and even produced wine which is why it was eventually named Fruita.

 You drive right to this flat area and can picnic under the Freemont cottonwood tree, the largest one you'll ever see. Catch a ranger talk to really make the area come to life.

Tip: If driving a high-clearance vehicle you can drive to and through many of the scenic highlights. Check with a ranger first though, because weather conditions can change rapidly.

Feel like walking a bit? Take in the first part of the Freemont River trail through the orchards, then hit the road to other trail heads. I went to the Oyler mine, one of many where uranium was mined in the early 1900s. Ranger Riley Mitchell also recommended Capitol Gorge and Grand Wash Trails for us Levelers.

Tip: En route to Capitol Reef, Boulder Mesa Restaurant is a good place to eat. Beer drinkers should try a bottle of "Polygamy Porter." I got a kick just saying the name!

Towns and gas stations are few and far between so keep that tank full. One town you might consider worth a pause is Bicknell, especially if you like to chalk up firsts/leasts/mosts/etc. It is the smallest town in the U.S. to have its own movie theater. Population is 325, the Wayne County Theater seats 306.

Wayne County, by the way, has 2,500 square miles for its 2,500 residents.

For  more info, go to and for a full feature on Utah, go to


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